15/06/11

Tom Nutt, Director at The Communication Group plc

In a competitive marketplace where the fight for people’s attention is fierce, it is critical to stand out from the crowd in order to succeed.

As a consequence, creating a compelling communications strategy is a ‘must have’ for every growing business. It should underpin everything from your sales strategy to your internal communications. It should take into account your consumer research, competitor analysis and market insights to be truly targeted and effective.

Here, we outline the six essential steps to building a strong communications strategy.

Step 1: Define your objective.

Your communications objectives must be rooted in the commercial aspirations of your business. Ask yourself in what ways communications can help you achieve your objectives as a business and what it is that you are trying to communicate.

Some communications strategies will be extremely targeted e.g. launching a new product, whilst other will be much longer term e.g. to communicate the developments in your business model. In each case, you need to clearly understand what you are trying to communicate to achieve your commercial objectives.

Step 2: Determine your targets.

This is a pivotal step in developing your communications strategy. In order to define your target audience, the following points should be considered:

•Who are your primary targets?

•Who are the intermediaries (Wholesalers/ Retailers/ Agents/ Representatives/ Brokers/ Franchisees/ Professional advisors/ Opinion formers)?

•What are the user types (light, medium, heavy/ infrequent, occasional, frequent/ non-user, promiscuous, loyal)?

•What is the targets’ lifestyle in terms of occupation, consumption and values?

•What are the geographic and demographic components to your target audience?

Building the profile of your target audience will help you to determine more clearly the direction of your communications strategy. Put simply, you need to get inside the head of your target audiences.

Step 3: Define your story

Once you have established your communication objectives and who you are targeting, it is important to develop a simple ‘story’ to underpin your communications strategy. Your ‘story’ should concisely convey your key messages and the essential points that you are trying to communicate. Your ‘story’ should also give context e.g. why is this announcement/piece of news so important for your company/the industry/your customers? What makes it special/standout/unique? Developing clear and simple communications will be key to the success of your strategy.

We have seen over many years how consumers of all types respond more positively to stories that deliver emotional connections.

Step 4: Carefully chose your channels.

The media via which you communicate is the essential mechanism in your communication strategy. Whilst there may be a temptation to try and cover every type of media channel e.g. target print, online, broadcast, social media all at once, it is important to consider the relevance of each media channel for your specific communications objectives. What is right for one PR strategy/campaign may not be right for another and you must consider what will be most valuable or interesting to your target audience. In addition, it may be the case that the media is not going to be an effective conduit and you need to target small groups through more informal means.

With the increase of user-generated content sites such as Facebook or Twitter, be aware of the power of social media to enhance your communications. You may consider a ‘viral’ campaign as part of your strategy to maximise exposure and strengthen your online presence. In doing so, you should consider what your audience could do to engage with your campaign (and not only feel or think) in order to spread information through network channels. Interactivity should be at the heart of your social media strategy.

Step 5: Ensure that your budget matches your ambitions.

With cost-cutting front of mind and budgets under increased pressure, it is crucial to match your communications strategy to your budget. Bear in mind that the more complex the task the greater the cost. The budget you set aside for communications needs to reflect:

•Your priorities in terms of who you most want to target and what you want their response to be

•The resource you have available to achieve the results you need (whether this is through an agency or an in-house communications expert)

•The potential revenue that could be generated through successful communications

The balance of these three factors will ultimately determine how complex a communications strategy you undertake and the investment therein.

Step 6: Measure the outcomes

Finally, although it is difficult to obtain a picture of the total effect of your campaign, assessing the success of your strategy is essential. Measure the outcomes of your campaign, whether your objective has been reached and use this to determine what you need to modify in your ongoing communications. Always remember that constant improvement is the key to a successful communication strategy.

About The Author

Tom Nutt is Director at The Communication Group plc and specialises in advising start-ups and entrepreneurial businesses.

www.thecommunicationgroup.co.uk

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